With a frosty glass of this classic tropical cocktail in hand, you’ll feel like you’re lying on a sandy beach under the gently swaying fronds of a palm tree, with nothing but the blue ocean and the sound of the waves to lull you into a state of holiday bliss. You can whip up this Piña Colada recipe in your blender in minutes – and if you scroll down you’ll also find a recipe for how to make your own cream of coconut. (Skip to recipes.)

pina colada recipe - a couple of pina coladas all fancy with pinepple, cherries, and little umbrellas

“If you like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me, and escape.” (Rupert Holmes)

Okay, I’m into yoga, and I only have half a brain . . . quick, I need a Piña Colada!

Well, it’s a good thing, then, that this month for our Eat the World Recipe Challenge we visit the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, birthplace of that famous tropical cocktail. The Piña Colada (meaning ‘strained pineapple’ in Spanish) is a deliciously creamy pineapple-coconut-rum libation that has become synonymous with beach holidays. Just hearing the name of the drink makes me picture swaying palm trees and smell coconut suntan lotion. I can almost feel the sand between my toes and imagine myself laying on a towel on the beach, sipping that creamy, cool drink to the rhythmic backdrop of crashing ocean waves . . . oh, yes.

pina colada recipe; top view with cherry and pineapple wedge

looking down into that creamy, luscious drink . . . I’m going in for a sip!

The coconut element in a classic Piña Colada comes from commercial ‘cream of coconut’ (Coco Lopez brand being the iconic one). However, upon reading the ingredients list on a can of it, I realized I just couldn’t bring myself to use it when making my drinks at home.

Coco Lopez Ingredients : Coconut, Sugar, Water, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monostearate, Salt, Propylene Glycol, Alginate, Mono and Diglycerides (Emulsifiers), Citric Acid, Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum.

So, I set about making my own Cream of Coconut (the simple recipe is below). Yes, it means you need to do a little work, preferably the day before, but your homemade version keeps well, and if you make up a double batch, you can have a Piña Colada in your hands any time you start humming the song and getting the craving. You just need to boil down a can or two of coconut milk with some sugar until it’s thick, luscious, and creamy. No hard work required, you just need to be hanging around your kitchen for a while. The commercial cream of coconut uses chemical stabilizers and emulsifiers to provide the creaminess. I found that adding a bit of cornstarch does the same thing, and helps keep your Piña Colada smooth and creamy.

In a pinch, you can even just scoop out some of the thick coconut cream from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk and add a bit of sugar to get your Piña Colada fix quickly. The flavour is a bit lighter and the drink may separate a bit, but it’s most definitely better than singing the no-Piña-blues. And four ingredients that you can pronounce most definitely trumps  a whole slew of chemical ingredients you can’t.

pina colada recipe; that's one luscious cocktail

So, in honour of Puerto Rico’s national drink, let’s get started!

It’s Piña Colada time!

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: You can, of course, use commercial cream of coconut (which is not the same as coconut cream or coconut milk), but if you want to avoid the chemicals used in making it, the recipe below for making your own is very simple. I’ve also given the alternative for just using the cream that rises to the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk. It’s thick and spoonable, almost solid, and will make a decent Piña Colada, but it will more easily separate upon standing for a while (which is usually not an issue!) For best results, refrigerate your can of coconut milk for 24 hours – however I find I don’t need to refrigerate if I use the full-fat premium Thai Kitchen brand of coconut milk. (Freeze the leftover coconut water at the bottom of the can to use in smoothies, curries, stews, or soups.)

Using frozen pineapple chunks will yield a thicker slushier drink, but fresh will work just fine. You can buy frozen pineapple chunks, or freeze your own on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, then pop them into a freezer bag.

*To make a virgin Piña Colada, just replace the rum with additional pineapple juice.

pina colada recipe for this luscious, creamy, tropical cocktail

Classic Piña Colada Recipe

  • 1 cup (about 140gms) fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
  • 4 oz. (½ cup/120ml) cream of coconut (see recipe below, or use ½ cup of the thick cream scooped from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk + 3 tablespoons sugar)
  • 4 oz. (120ml) unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 3 oz. (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons/90ml) white rum or light rum
  • 10 to 12 ice cubes
  • pineapple wedges or maraschino cherries to garnish – optional

Place all ingredients into a blender canister and blend until smooth. Pour into 2 large cocktail glasses.

Makes 2 drinks.

Homemade Cream of Coconut (Without all the Chemicals)

  • 1 can (14 oz/400ml) full-fat coconut milk (like Thai Kitchen brand)
  • ½ cup (100gms) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt

Empty the contents of the can of coconut milk into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it is reduced to 1 cup, stirring often. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt until they are totally combined. Pour the sugar mix into the simmering coconut milk, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook for one minute.

Pour the cream of coconut into a jar and allow it to cool. Refrigerate. This will last for 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge.

Makes about 1 cup. Enough for two batches of the Piña Colada recipe above.

¡Salud!

Check out all the wonderful Puerto Rican dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!

Sue: Sofrito Rice
Sharanya Palanisshami: Marrallo
Pandemonium Noshery: Pernil – Puerto Rican Crispy Roast Pork
Simply Inspired Meals: Epcot Frozen Torched Cherry Colada
Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Empanadillas de Carne
Evelyne: Pastelon, a Puerto Rican Plantain Lasagna
Margaret at Kitchen Frau: Classic Pina Colada Recipe
Amy: Arroz con Tocino (Puerto Rican Rice with Bacon)
House of Nash Eats: Patacones or Tostones (Fried Green Plantains)
Elizabeth at Literature and Limes: Mango Piraguas
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Pinchos

Want to receive new Kitchen Frau recipes directly to your email? Sign up here and you’ll get a handy and useful kitchen tip along with each recipe, too.  (No spam ever.)

If you like my recipes, follow me on InstagramPinterestTwitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

Don’t forget to PIN IT to save the recipe:

Creamy coconut, fresh pineapple, and white rum make up this classic Pina Colada recipe. Whiz it up in your blender for a tropical treat. Recipe for homemade cream of coconut included.

Check out my past ‘Eat the World’ Recipe Challenge posts: